Category Archives: Main course

Fresh Egg Pasta – Pumpkin Ravioli with Salami and Chives

A week after coming back from a long weekend in Florence in January, and I was already nostalgic. Rather than go through photos or finish unpacking(!), I preferred to eat my memories. We’d eaten incredible handmade pasta all over the city – with ragu of rabbit, wild boar, or beef shin, and with mushrooms, squash and burnt onions. Without the equipment or expertise to recreate any one of those dishes exactly, we made this instead: egg-yellow envelopes of ravoli, filled with sweet, silky pumpkin puree, with a touch of brown butter and garnished with cubes of salami and chives.

Totally worth the effort!


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Short Rib Bourguignon

As I write this, my husband and I are sharing a Fray Bentos pie, passing the tin (balanced on a plate) between us and sharing the same fork. I tell you this not because I’m proud of us – I’m really not – but just to demonstrate that I am both lazy and economical (he bought the pies upon finding them on sale at Morrison’s for a pound each, bearing them home in triumph. I let him enjoy it for approximately two seconds  before observing that they are always available at Poundland). Anyway, this meal easy, inexpensive and gloriously delicious – it’s honestly once of the nicest dishes I can make. We made it recently for dining club with my siblings and my brother has asked me for the recipe almost daily ever since.

Short Rib Bourgignon

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Miso Honey Salmon

This is not a particularly budget-friendly recipe, purely because salmon isn’t cheap. But it’s one of those foods that shouldn’t be, I think. If I’m going to eat a fish, I want one that used to swim in the sea and is fished sustainably and transported so that it’s still fresh, and so it should cost a lot of money. (I also believe in good treatment for animals, but that’s slightly different because it’s possible to buy an unpopular cut of a well-treated animal at a reasonable price). However, we made this the other day from a salmon I’d frozen after buying it from the supermarket at less than £10 a kilo. It was a lovely specimen – firm, rosy-fleshed salmon from Scotland, and very fresh. It was so cheap because it was unprocessed – gutted, but then just bagged up. It’s a cost-efficient way of buying enough salmon for dinner with friends, but only if you don’t mind wrestling a fish longer than your arm. I spent longer de-scaling and pin-boning that sea monster than preparing the rest of the dinner put together. Just call me Ishmael.

Miso Honey Salmon

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Summer Tomato Tart

Cost: about 80p, or £1.60 with mozzarella to serve. Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish.

A summery version of the Savoury Spring Tart – or really, for this almost-summer that we find ourselves in now, when we’re still willing the good weather to fully take hold, but meanwhile ingredients need a bit of helping along. We made two versions of this tomato tart, one with gorgeous, pungent vine cherry tomatoes (from Lidl!) and one with those watery supermarket tomatoes that cost almost nothing but taste of exactly nothing. For tomatoes like these, which don’t really stand up to eating on their own, the flavour is encouraged along with a slick of tomato puree and a tangle of caramelised onions, as well as a grinding of flaky Maldon salt before the heat and extra time in the oven reminds them of what tomatoes are supposed to taste like and burnishes the pastry to a deeper gold. The onions in this version also protect the pastry from sogginess, but with really good cherry tomatoes they aren’t really needed to help the flavours sing.

Cherry Tomato Tart

Pale Tomato Tart (good cherry tomatoes)

Golden Tomato Tart (with    watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)

Golden Tomato Tart (with watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)

Both of these are very enjoyable – the paler tart with cherry tomatoes is more delicate and the tomatoes aren’t cooked as much as they are warmed, the oven heat just ripening them a little more, and the tart really just shows them off. The darker tart is more complex, with punchier flavours – more umami, salt and sugar, a symphony rather than a solo.

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Malaysian Beef Rendang

Cost: £12 for 8 people as a main course, very generously

A Malay classic – nuggets of beef slow-cooked to collapsing tenderness, in a fragrant, almost caramelised curry. The shopping list of spices isn’t particularly long – we happened to have almost everything on hand, and the base of the curry is coconut milk, so it’s dairy free but still gorgeously rich. This recipe was originally from a butchery course at the Waitrose cooking school, and overall winner in a family rendang-off that my brother won against my parents.

The only changes I’ve made have been for convenience, as well as using beef shin instead of chuck – shin is my favourite cut for this kind of slow-cooked dish, where the collagen breaks down to give a silky, rich sauce and the meat breaks down without becoming tough into pink-tinged shreds.

Beef rendang on paratha

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Easy Ramen and Char Siu

Cost: about £9, serves 6 with seconds for everyone

Ramen is not just a London trend, and not just a Japanese obsession – although it is both these things, the darling of hipsters and food fans, the subject of consumer quests for the best ramen in London and scientific quests led by patient, meticulous Japanese chefs, it is a food experience that soothes and thrills at the same time, both simple in its innate comfort and complex in the depths of savoury flavour it achieves.

This recipe is a practical way of recreating that experience at home. I say recreating, not replicating, because whilst I believe it is possible to do, it’s really not practical. This recipe for the tonkotsu ramen broth delivers collagen-rich, intensely porky broth which in turn delivers sticky-lipped contentment – but it’s easy. And although it takes many hours to physically cook, the active time for the cook is well under an hour.

Homemade "Ramen"

 

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Guotie (aka gyoza or potsticker dumplings)

Cost: about £1 for a batch that serves 2 as a main dish or up to 6 as a side dish

These little pockets of juicy savouriness have become one of my favourite things to make at home, and by making the filling in advance and freezing it in 400g batches, it can be a weeknight treat as well as a weekend project. This is perfect low-ceilinged kitchen fare – at a restaurant these little beauties will run at about £4 for an order of 6, but at home a batch of about 24 only costs around £1 and nobody judges you for ordering 4 portions. They might seem like a restaurant food but really, they are so easy to make at home – no precision in cooking is required, and even imperfectly wrapped and inexactly seasoned dumplings will be delicious – comfort food for two (or one!) and always a hit with guests.

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls...which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls…which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

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